'Heavy-handed' three-strike RTA policy to stay

Three strikes policy for heavy vehicles in NSW stays, amid claims it unfairly punishes trucking operators

'Heavy-handed' three-strike RTA policy to stay
'Heavy-handed' three-strike RTA policy to stay
By Brad Gardner

The ‘three strikes’ policy for heavy vehicles in New South Wales will not be overturned, despite claims it unfairly punishes trucking operators.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) has defended its policy of fining truck drivers and recording a strike against the vehicle if it exceeds the speed limit by 15km/h, calling it an effective deterrent.

Once a truck receives three strikes in a three-year period for speeding, the RTA de-registers it for 28 days. The strike is limited to the vehicle rather than the driver, meaning once a new driver enters the truck the strike count does not reset until after the three-year period.

But Alan Magill from Parkes-based A & R Magill Transport believes the issue is behavioural, saying the RTA needs to focus on the driver rather than making a business pay by taking its vehicle off the road for a month.

"There is a limit to how much control we have over a guy. I’m not the one driving through a speed zone," Magill says.

Magill, along with Managing Director of MJ&SL Kennedy Michael Kennedy, supports the policy in 100km/h zones, saying companies can stop drivers from speeding by installing speed limiters and on-board tracking systems.

But Kennedy — whose company was hit with three strikes — says on-board management systems do not detect roadworks or school zones so operators are unable to determine if a driver is speeding through them.

"My view is that these offences are out of our control," he says.

But a spokesman for the RTA says the measure has been effective because only 15 percent of drivers re-offend after receiving a first strike.

"The reduction in re-offenders demonstrates the three strikes policy has been an effective deterrent for speeding drivers," the spokesman says.

"The three strikes policy is one component of the RTA’s comprehensive heavy vehicle enforcement regime and there are no plans to amend or abolish the policy given its success at improving road safety."

Kennedy has also criticised the notification period, saying businesses must wait up to two months before being issued with a strike.

He says the lengthy delay means vehicles can be de-registered before the operator can take action because individual drivers may offend in a truck with strikes already against it.

MJ&SL Kennedy successfully appealed the RTA's decision to de-register one of the company's trucks, but the offending driver left before Kennedy was notified.

Operators hit with three strikes can then be audited by the RTA, a measure Kennedy has labelled a"heavy-handed approach to bludgeon you into submission".

Industry group NatRoad wants chain of responsibility laws to apply in speed zones below 100km/h, saying companies will be able to use the reasonable steps defence to show how much control they have over speeding drivers.

NatRoad Chief Executive Bernie Belacic also wants a system introduced whereby operators can access a driver’s traffic record, saying it may help reduce the risk of a strike.

"At the moment you don’t get that history," Belacic says.

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